2018 MN State Long Range & Palma Championships
The 3-day MN Long Range and Palma Championships were held last weekend at Gopher Rifle & Revolver Club. 39 shooters competed for cash awards and lots of hardware, with various trophies on the line for both Sling and F-Class competitors.
Friday’s Palma and extra 1000-yard matches are not part of the State Championship, but they are still part of the larger NRA registered 3-day aggregate. It was a perfect 80º and sunny day, with mild winds teasing us with the possibility of high scores. GRRC has hosted Palma matches since the mid-90’s without a single perfect 450 being fired until this match last year. On the Friday Palma of 2017, Steve Naumann and I became the first 2 names on the “Dave Anderson Memorial 450 Club” plaque. With 2 Palma matches on the schedule for this weekend, many were hoping to get their names carved below ours.
The F-class gang’s 450 dreams all died on the 800-yard line, as no one walked away from there clean. Chris “Chuck” Longley was closest with a 149-7x, and he followed that up with 2 more 149’s to finish the day on top by a long shot with a fine score of 447-23x. Steve Ernst’s 435-11x topped all FTR shooters. In the extra 1000-yard match, Magic Mike Lehmeier’s 197-5x was the score to beat in Open, and Chuck Laitenen’s 191-4x handled the FTR crew.
The Palma shooters fared better on the big targets, with 4 shooters cleaning 800, and both "Party Marty" Gunderson and Brian “Short Pants” Mrnak keeping their streaks alive with more cleans at 900. Newly qualified USNRT member Gunderson rode the wave all the way to the end before letting the very last shot sneak out into the 9-ring. That had to hurt, but his excellent 449-24x was still better than the rest, and good enough for that match win. Marty shot a ridiculous 450-34x at Lodi earlier this summer, so that had to take a little bit of the sting out of the lost point. Mrnak and I both had 448’s to round out the top 3, his having quite a few more x’s.
Morgen Dietrich put up a respectable 446, but he quickly recognized that his slightly above average skills with a Palma rifle were not going to be enough to hang with this crowd. Morgen turns his back on his brothers and breaks his sacred Palma Alliance vow in match #2, breaking out his .243 and 105 grain Berger Hybrids for the extra 20 shots at 1000. For delicate flowers like Morgen, the reduced recoil of the .243 really helps to keep the sights aligned. It was no surprise; when a guy takes the time to load .243 ammo and bring the rifle along to the match “just in case”, it’s pretty evident that he isn’t super serious about his commitment to shoot all Palma. With no more having to worry about flinching, bruises, or choking back tears, Dietrich pilots his Any gun to a sweet 5thplace finish in that match, finding the 9-ring 4 times. Craig “The Menace” Bennis Creedmoor’s fellow Any Rifle shooter Tom Thompson to top that match with both shooting matching 199-8x scores, and I’m one X back in 3rdwith the Palma stick at 199-7x. That puts me on top of the day 1 agg down 3 points total, just 1 point ahead of Short Pants. After the matches conclude, Steve Naumann saves the day with Street Tacos for everyone on hand.
Saturday turns dark with rain off an on throughout the day, and the gray skies and targets make for difficult sight pictures for the sling shooters. We lost about 2 hours to a rain delay, but still managed to get all of the scheduled matches fired without anyone getting too wet. The course of fire is 3x20 from the 1k line, and Morgen is feeling a little better after taking a double dose of Midol on Friday night for his sore shoulder. He shoots an 8 in the first match of the day with the scope, and takes 2ndto Stacey “the Surgeon” Tamulinas. After that though, he stays perfect to finish up with a cool 598-30x for the day. That’s a country mile ahead of Brian Mrnak in 2ndplace at 591-24x, and a country mile and a half ahead of my 590-23x for 3rd. Dietrich wins the MN 1000-yard championship, but loses his soul.
The 1000-yard F-Class contests are close, with Ali Mohebbi just sneaking past John Rykus for the 1000-yard MN F-Open title – 583-19x vs. John’s 583-14x. Chuck Laitenen’s 574-18x takes the F-TR class with Drew “Ramblin’ Man” Rutherford 7 points back for 2nd.
After all of that, we manage to coerce 6 brave souls to pull targets for a 2-man team match. It’s a shootout with all 3 sling teams within one point of each other, but Team Texasota gets it done with a combined score of 292-15x. Firing members on the Texasota squad were Stacey Tamulinas and Ginormous Jay Johnson. Team “Hair is Overrated” members Scott Olson and Chuck Laitenen dropped the hammer on fellow F-TR shooters Kevin Caduf and George Seifert, beating them by a full 13 points. Only one F-Open team participated, but they shot a solid 290-6x. By then it was past diner time, and brats and more street tacos were served up for all of the die-hard shooters still hanging around the club.
Saturday’s all-day rain brought Sunday’s dew point well into the 70’s, and with temps now in the upper-80’s, the range now felt like a South American jungle. The wind was relatively steady despite the heat, so the second Palma match of the weekend looked like another prime opportunity to get on that 450 plaque. 3 F-Classers started out clean, as Chris Longley, Mike Lehmeier, and Stevie Ernst all shot 150’s on the 800-yard line. Their hopes didn’t survive long though, as all came back down to earth at 900 dropping 2 points each. Longley held on the tightest at 1000, and his 445-24x won the day. Rick Sievers’ 444-19x was next, with Lehmeier 3rdat 442-16x. Chuck Laitenen wins F-TR with a 441-18x over 2ndplace Ernst at 439-19x.
The slingers came out swinging, with 6 of us cleaning 800. Morgen Dietrich’s shoulder was feeling a little better after taking a day off from shooting a full-power rifle, and he managed a respectable 11x there matching my score. “Classic” Steve Knutson laughed at both of us as he cruised past with his 13x. I was the only one of the 6 who stayed clean through 900, and Brian Mrnak and Jay Johnson also shot 150’s there after dropping 1 point each at 800. Dietrich’s flinch comes back at 900 and he somehow drops 5 in the mild conditions, sending him way back down towards the bottom of the field after a strong start. Back at 1000, I’m the last man standing with a chance at perfection. Brian is right next to me, and things are looking good for both of us out of the gate with 10’s and X’s. Around shot number 5 or 6, we both get caught in a let-off for matching 9’s out the left. Bummer, my 450 dreams are dead for today. I lose 2 more points to finish with a decent 447-22x, but it’s only good enough for 2ndplace as Short Pants hangs on to finish with just the one 9 for the string. His 448-24x is the best of the day, and gets his name on the MN State Palma Championship trophy. This also puts him on top for the 3-day agg by a single point (and a bunch of x’s) over yours truly. Brian has shot great Palma scores all year, and his average Palma score is over 447 for the year. Dietrich is 3rdfor the 3-day, and despite his weak 443-22x in Sunday’s Palma match, his work with the cheater gun on Saturday is enough to hang on for the 2-day State Championship agg and make him your 2018 MN State Long Range Champion. Morgen has won this trophy quite a few times, and I wouldn’t expect this to be the last time. Give this guy a gun that doesn’t kick too hard and isn’t too noisy, and he can shoot pretty good!
Also worth mentioning, former Minnesotan Stacey Tamulinas wins the coveted “Heavy Bullet” Palma trophy with his 3rdplace 446-26x. I have no idea why this trophy even exists, since there are typically less than 3 people shooting heavies at this match, but exist it does. As the only competitor shooting something other than 155’s this year, Stacey is your 2018 Heavy Bullet Champion!!! Congratulations brother, you did it. Here’s the breakdown on the rest of the 2018 Champs:
Long Range State Champion: Morgen Dietrich
1000-Yard State Champion: Morgen Dietrich
Palma State Champion: Brian Mrnak
Long Range State Champion: John Rykhus
1000-Yard State Champion: Ali Mohebbe
Palma State Champion: Chris Longley
Long Range State Champion: Chuck Laitenen
1000-Yard State Champion: Chuck Laitenen
Palma State Champion: Chuck Laitenen
Match Director Mark Rohmann did a bang-up job as always with this match. Mark wrangled at least $2k worth of prizes that were awarded by drawing at Sunday afternoon’s awards ceremony to 10 lucky participants. Ed Dike did yeoman’s service running the pits all weekend and keeping things moving right along. I think it’s safe to say that everyone had a good time, and hopefully all will come back next year and bring friends.
For those still hoping to get their name on the 450 plaque, GRRC is hosting one more Long Range match this fall. The 2ndannual “Fall Classic” will feature 2 days of Palma matches on September 29-30. See you there!
VIDEO Courtesy of Mike McKay